CNN was a good experience. The pictures of me working
there are few and not in good condition, as you can see above.
I got the job through Jersey City State College. It was a "for college credit
only" internship. It cost me money in food, bus and train tickets to go to CNN to work. I had to get up 3:30/4:00am every
day to eat and get ready for work, catch the bus from 440 Kennedy Blvd into Journal Square and catch the Path train which
took me straight into World Trade Center Building 1. Up flights of steps and across the lobby to the CNN studio where a security
guard let me in.
Apart from the security guard, the director and Stewart Varney, I was the only
other one there that early. But we had to do the "live" financial updates with Stewart and Atlanta only gave us a three
minute warning phone call to signal me to quickly turn on all the lights, find a sony lapel mike for Stewart that
actually worked out of a box of them and start operating the studio camera. Stewart did his own TV makeup
(required so you don't look oily) and the director coordinated with Atlanta and gave us the countdown signal.
Stewart was a very charming and highly professional man who apparently loved
his work. He was so good that when we were forced to change "copy" on him on the teleprompter last minute he seamlessly made
My working hours had me at the studio from before 6am until about 1pm and the
studio came alive with people around 9:30am as they came in working different daytime shifts.
Bela Abzog came in one Wednesday each month to record her segments and
she pre-recorded a months worth - 4 at a time. Frequently I had to do the camera for these spots. I remember once we got the
3 minute warning from Atlanta that we were going live for an update and I grabbed up all of Bela Abzog's clothes that were
all over poor Stewart's set and heaved them on a business desk. Bela cursed me out as I ignored her and did my job and got
the live spot completed successfully. I wasn't fired or anything and I saw lots of people trying to surpress laughter at the
I can't tell you all the things that happened at CNN but some things
were very funny.
I remember once we were doing an interview with the heads of several major companies
and it was live and I was doing all the camera work live. (The program's director didn't trust anybody but me operating the
camera). Anyhow, the camera was big and heavy. (None of the pictures above include a shot of the BIG studio camera). To counter-balance
the camera someone had used gaffer's tape to tie lead weights on the tripod handle. Right in the middle of this half hour
show the tape gave out and the weights came off and panic erupted beyond the camera's view. Quickly I used my full body weight
to counter-balance the weight of the camera so it wouldn't nose dive. As I hung from the tripod handle, over my head sets
I got a pep talk from the show's director: "Keep cool...hang on...we're almost finished...just a few more minutes...". When
the show ended people rushed foward to help me and others clapped.
One day one of the First Ladies came in to do an interview and she had FBI protection.
I had to laugh. Nobody was going to hurt her. And the FBI guys were Sssooo funny dressed in suits, no smiles and dark glasses
The two guests who I was pushing for CNN to get in to interview were Vincent
Price and John Russo. John Russo had co-wrote NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD with George Romero. But no such luck.
A more boring job I got to do occasionally was bulk degausing
3/4 inch tapes for re-use by the program editors. A mindless job. And you better remove your watch or it gets magnetized and
you can throw it away.
Some mornings I'd have coffee with this very nice lady and, odd as it sounds,
we never introduced ourselves and I went to see the movie ALL THAT JAZZ and there she was up on the big screen giving a negative
TV review of the lead character's movie that brings on his heart attack!!!
One funny early morning thing I remember was the time a new achor woman locked
horns with the director. I had all the lights, the camera and mike ready and the 3 minute warning from Atlanta came and the
director turned towards me and asked, "Hungry? Hard roll and coffee on me?" "Sure" I said. The director took off his headset
and dashed out of the studio to the lobby and got on line at the food cart. The anchor woman freaked. She left the set and
went to the director's station and grabbed the "Atlanta Only" phone and yelled "That asshole just left for coffee!!!" The
director returned within seconds and handed me the food and had 20 seconds to spare before going live. The live spot went
fine, but because of what the anchor woman had reported to headquarters in Atlanta the director got yelled at. So all day
long the director got his revenge by talking into this woman's earphone while she was doing live shows and spots.
He would say into her ear, "Us stupid assholes...." this, "Us stupid
assholes...." that, just punishing her. Nobody could her what he was saying but this anchor
My time at CNN was good. I was trusted by the professionals because I was dedicated
and worked hard, as if I was getting paid well. Other interns figured they weren't getting paid so did the least they could.
One guy was ego tripping, handing these established pros his business card as if he was going to do them a favor. Most of
those business cards ended up in the men's room urnals!
George Romero's response when asked how you get a job in this business was simple
and 100% on target. It's what I did. Be a do'er. Be reliable. Work as if you are the highest paid person on the set.
If you do the least you can or hang out or take lots of breaks you aren 't likely to be re-hired on the next gig. Its
just common sense but you'd be amazed how many stupid people there are out there who cut their own throats career-wise just
I was offered a job as cameraman as a result of my work ethic at CNN but turned
it down. I wanted to make movies. I incorporated Visual Experiences, Inc. instead and crawled from the frying pan into the
fire but at least it was on the road I wanted to be on.